Chris Froome calls out social media users who hurl insults at athletes

The four-time Tour de France winner has spoken about mental health, the Tour de France, and his unexpected appearance on French news

Chris Froome has called out people who hurl insults at athletes on social media, reminding them that sportspeople aren’t necessarily superhuman in the way they deal with emotion.

Froome, a four-time Tour de France winner, spoke about mental health in the latest video on his YouTube channel, where he also provided an update to fans on his Tour de France, and the slightly bizarre moment he appeared on a national news show in France. 

Mental health in high performance sport became a major talking point during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, as athletes including Simone Biles and Adam Peaty spoke out about the pressure they face as Olympians. 

This was followed by the sudden death of New Zealand track cyclist Olivia Podmore in the days after the games. 

In his latest update, Froome said: “Something else I feel as if I should talk about is the mental health side of professional sport. 

“I think generally there’s expectations on athletes now that they’re almost super-humans. I don’t think all athletes are necessarily super human in terms of dealing with emotions and all the criticisms sometimes thrown their way. We saw more and more athletes who are really struggling because of the direct access through social media and other media outlets - people can sit behind a screen and throw insults in a way you wouldn’t do if you saw them in person, or passed them in the street or the supermarket.

“If I can put any message out there, I would just say think twice before you hurl an insult at an athlete. We’re all giving our best every time we represent our country or our team.” 

Froome has been the target of plenty of social media abuse in his career, most recently as he tries to return to form after the career-threatening injuries he suffered in his 2019 crash.

The latest step in his recovery was a return to the Tour de France with his Israel Start-Up Nation team, having been absent from the race since 2018. 

Froome was at the tail end of the peloton for much of the race, having suffered a nasty crash on the opening stage and battling through with his injuries, eventually finishing 133rd overall. 

He said: “After the Tour de France I took a bit of time off. That was a brutal race. That crash on day one really put me back. 

“That was a high speed crash. I think we hit the deck at over 60km/h, bodies and bikes everywhere. I hit a point on my upper leg, I think it must have been on someone else’s bike, but I couldn’t even stand up.

“It was really important to carry on the race, even though I was black and blue for the best part of two weeks. I felt ribs all the way through to Paris, even on the cobblestones of the Champs Elysées. I felt it was important just to get through the race and get the Tour de France in the legs.”

Froome also offered a little more insight into an unusual development that occurred recently, as he made a cameo appearance on a French news show and was referred to as a “touring cyclist” by a reporter during a piece about forest fires. 

He said: “The other day I found myself in the news, which was a pretty funny story.

“I’d gone out for a little spin on some back roads that I never normally see anyone. All my team jerseys were dirty so I’d put on a black jersey.

“I had a French TV crew stop me in the middle of the road and tell me the road was closed for risk of fires in the area. I ended up being on national French television. I think because I was wearing a neutral jersey, the journalists weren’t sporting journalists, they didn’t recognise me. I just nodded, said okay and left. 

“That made it onto the news, that even ‘bike tourists’ are being stopped from riding in this area. Next thing I know I had thousands of messages coming through from people saying they’d seen me on the news.” 

>>> Ethan Hayter wins his sixth pro race two weeks after Olympic medal in Tokyo 

Froome returns to racing at the Deutschland Tour on August 26. 

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Alex Ballinger
Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.